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Check those Checkbooks
November 19, 2007

Brother, can you spare $20,798,000?

That's what the Mint hopes to get from coin collectors when the Dolley Madison First Spouse gold coins go on sale at noon Eastern time today.

This is more than the Mint asked for the Martha Washington and Abigail Adams and Jefferson Liberty coins that went on sale in June and August, respectively.

Rapidly rising gold prices have forced the Mint to increase the average sales price by 19.14 percent. I write average because that compares the sales dollar totals from prior offerings and assumes the current offering will sell out in the same even 20,000-coin increments.

It may not work out this way. It is possible that the Madison First Spouse coins will not sell out as the others did. The price hike might stop would-be buyers. The less active secondary market for First Spouse coins might also slow down buyers who plan simply to acquire the coins from the Mint for the sole purpose of immdiately selling them online.

Perhaps more proofs will sell this time than uncirculated coins. It has been a bit unusual for three offerings in a row to go exactly 50-50 when other programs see proof coins preferred by roughly 3-1.

The figure $20,798,000 may not sound like a lot in an age of government budgets in trillions of dollars, but the figure is real money to real collector budgets. Collectors have already ponied up $50,454,000. If the Madison coins sell out, that totals $71,252,000.

With a minimum run of 10 years, collectors collectively will be asked for $712,520,000 for First Spouse coins. That number is almost three-quarters of a billion dollars and it presumes no further rises in issue prices.

This is a large number to ask of collectors. Can they spare it? We'll see.

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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